Resolution

The longshoreman cast off, the mooring ropes trailed in the river as the St. Louis, its giant side paddle wheels churned the water to foam, clawing at the surface to overcome the powerful Ohio River flow.

At first it drifted back before gathering speed and moving through the milky morning mist, slipping in and out of the late fall fog banks. On board, its crew stored mooring ropes and secured the cargo while in the ship’s galley, four friends slumped together, asleep after their previous day’s adventures.

“Okay you desperados, sleepy time’s over, time to earn your passage or the captain will have my hide,” the cook said, his voice crashing into eleven year old Mike Stout’s dream.

“Huh…” said Mike, peering through narrowed eyes.

“Time to get up—can’t leave you sleep on much longer,” said the cook.

A blurred white ceiling, the underside of the deck above came into focus. Mike moved to sit up and felt a weight press on his shoulder. He turned and saw a head covered in a tangle of blonde hair as its owner, Hannah Leigh, stirred.

“Oh…Mike,” she said, sweeping hair from her face. She tucked it behind her ear, hitting her sleeping friend with her elbow. “Sorry, Aurelia,” she said.

“Ugh…” Aurelia Ryder said, rousing herself.

Mike nudged Charlie Peyton on his other side.

“Wha…” said Charlie.

The cook’s voice boomed again, “rise and shine, it’s almost time to wash dishes again.”

“Where are we?” said Charlie rubbing his eyes.

“Just picked up some passengers and cargo in Cairo. Next stop Cincinnati,” the cook said. “Here get this into you,” he said, thrusting a plate at each of them in turn.
“How come we’re still here?” said Mike.

“Too much paperwork for the Captain. He couldn’t spare the time to hand you over,” the cook said. “Besides, I told him you did a good job washing dishes last night and seeing as how I’m shorthanded, I told him I’d like to keep you at least until breakfast is over,”

“Thanks mister,” said Mike.

“What’ll happen to us when we get to Cincinnati?” said Hannah.

“The Captain won’t have any choice but to hand you over to the police, I’m afraid…sorry.”

The four glanced at each other with worry written on their faces.

“This your cat?” the cook said, pointing to a black and white cat curled up under the table.

“Yes sir,” said Mike. The cat raised its head and looked at Mike.

The cook bent down and stroked the cat. “How come he’s only got one eye?”

“Don’t know. He’s always been like that,” said Mike.

“Mister, we’re sorry for all the trouble we caused, but—“said Hannah.

“Ain’t no buts can help you now missy.” The cook look at each of them in turn, “Is it true that we run you down?”

“We lost our oars, sir,” said Charlie.”

“So I heard. The skipper was in a real stew, told me he couldn’t change course, tight shipping channel and all.  You four are lucky to be alive.”

“Uh-huh,” said Aurelia.

“We were just trying to get back home to Lewiston, “said Mike.

“Downriver?” said the cook.

“No sir, it’s on the Niagara river, below the falls,” said Charlie.

“So that’s where you’re from? I can see how you two boys could be from there, but the girls now, that’s a different story. They’re Cajun, if ever I heard one.”

“Hannah and Aurelia lost their families, so they’re coming home with Charlie and me,”
“We just don’t want to end up on the orphan trains, Mister,” said Hannah. “Do you think we could all get ashore without anyone noticing?”

Now don’t any of you get any more crazy ideas and go running off. I’m sure it will all work out just fine.” The cook said  fingering his beaded necklace.

“Are you Seneca,” said Charlie.

“How did—“

“I’m Tuscarora and—“

“—and you should be at boarding school, just like I was. Your folks been hiding you?” said the cook.

Charlie nodded.

“Figures,” said the cook. “What you all doing down south anyway? You’re a—” But just then, what he was about to say was drowned out by the steamboat’s foghorn blaring its presence to other river craft. The cook looked up at the ceiling, waiting as silence returned. “No time to talk now–finish your food” he said, pointing to the four bowls on the galley table.

7 thoughts on “Resolution

  1. kcpwriter says:

    I added a few words in ( ) and deleted a few words. I like this piece, seemed very accurate. I would change Aurelia’s unusual name to a more common name, like Rebecca, for easier reading and pronunciation.

    The longshoreman cast off (and) mooring ropes trailed (behind) the St. Louis as its giant side paddle wheels churned the water to foam, clawing at the surface to overcome the powerful Ohio River flow.
    At first it drifted back, before gathering speed and moving through the milky morning mist, slipping in and out of the late fall fog banks. On board, its crew (pulled in the) ropes and secured the cargo while in the ship’s galley, four friends slumped together, asleep after their previous day’s adventures.
    “Okay you desperados, sleepy time’s over, time to earn your passage or the captain will have my hide,” the cook said, his voice crashing into eleven year old Mike Stout’s dream.
    “Huh…” said Mike, peering through narrowed eyes.
    “Time to get up—can’t leave you sleep on much longer,” said the cook.
    A blurred white ceiling, the underside of the deck above came into focus. Mike moved to sit up and felt a weight press on his shoulder. He turned and saw a head covered in a tangle of blonde hair as its owner, Hannah Leigh, stirred.
    “Oh…Mike,” she said, sweeping hair from her face. She tucked it behind her ear, hitting her sleeping friend with her elbow. “Sorry, Aurelia,” she said.
    “Ugh…” Aurelia Ryder said, rousing herself.
    Mike nudged Charlie Peyton on his other side.
    “Wha…” said Charlie.
    The cook’s voice boomed again, “rise and shine, it’s almost time to wash dishes again.”
    “Where are we?” said Charlie rubbing his eyes.
    “Just picked up some passengers and cargo in Cairo. Next stop Cincinnati,” the cook said. “Here get this into you,” he said, thrusting a plate at each of them in turn.
    “How come we’re still here?” said Mike.
    “Too much paperwork for the Captain. He couldn’t spare the time to hand you over,” the cook said. “Besides, I told him you did a good job washing dishes last night and seeing as how I’m shorthanded, I told him I’d like to keep you at least until breakfast is over,”
    “Thanks mister,” said Mike.
    “What’ll happen to us when we get to Cincinnati?” said Hannah.
    “The Captain won’t have any choice but to hand you over to the police, I’m afraid…sorry.”
    The four glanced at each other with worry written on their faces.
    “This your cat?” the cook said, pointing to a black and white cat curled up under the table.
    “Yes sir,” said Mike. The cat raised its head and looked at Mike.
    The cook bent down and stroked the cat. “How come he’s only got one eye?”
    “Don’t know. He’s always been like that,” said Mike.
    “Mister, we’re sorry for all the trouble we caused, but—“said Hannah.
    “Ain’t no buts can help you now missy.” The cook look at each of them in turn, “Is it true that we run you down?”
    “We lost our oars, sir,” said Charlie.”
    “So I heard. The skipper was in a real stew, told me he couldn’t change course, tight shipping channel and all. You four are lucky to be alive.”
    “Uh-huh,” said Aurelia.
    “We were just trying to get back home to Lewiston, “said Mike.
    “Downriver?” said the cook.
    “No sir, it’s on the Niagara river, below the falls,” said Charlie.
    “So that’s where you’re from? I can see how you two boys could be from there, but the girls now, that’s a different story. They’re Cajun, if ever I heard one.”
    “Hannah and Aurelia lost their families, so they’re coming home with Charlie and me,”
    “We just don’t want to end up on the orphan trains, Mister,” said Hannah. “Do you think we could all get ashore without anyone noticing?”
    Now don’t any of you get any more crazy ideas and go running off. I’m sure it will all work out just fine.” The cook said, fingering his beaded necklace.
    “Are you Seneca (?)” said Charlie.
    “How did—“
    “I’m Tuscarora and—“
    “—and you should be at boarding school, just like I was. Your folks been hiding you?” said the cook.
    Charlie nodded.
    “Figures,” said the cook. “What you all doing down south anyway? You’re a—” But just then, what he was about to say was drowned out by the steamboat’s foghorn blaring its presence to other river craft. The cook looked up at the ceiling, waiting as silence returned. “No time to talk now–finish your food” he said, pointing to the four bowls on the galley table.

  2. maggiehasbrouck says:

    KCP’s additions really helped smooth the first sentence, although I still think it might be a little long.

    Introducing the four friends all at once is little overwhelming, although I feel like you do a pretty good job of it. Still, at his point it is hard for me to distinguish one friend from another. It might be more compelling to concentrate more on Mike and how he is feeling in the very beginning. Then let each friend flesh out as the plot moves forward. I want to be able to have a strong connection to one of the four friends right from the start.

    The last part, about the boarding, school feels a little awkward and confusing. I think you can be clearer about the situation without sacrificing that “i want to know more,” feeling in the reader.

    I appreciated the description of place in the beginning and would have liked some more of that kind of writing scattered throughout the dialogue.
    I also would like a better sense of just where we are in history.

    All in all, i feel like this has a lot going for it.

    Thanks for posting

  3. AmaT says:

    I am drawn to your story because I am also writing a middle-grade historical novel. I like so many of your descriptive words and phrases: giant side paddle wheels churned the water to foam; clawing at the surface; the powerful Ohio River flow; “Here get this into you,” skipper was in a real stew; fingering his beaded necklace.
    First of all, I think for Middle-grade, you must start with a good first-paragraph hook. And then some action needs happen right away. Your description of the setting is great. However, after reading the first page, I don’t know who the protagonist is and I am not sure about the main conflict. I think these are important to establish quickly to engage your readers. I am not sure where they are in history. “The orphan trains” gives us a clue, but will probably need more clarification. There were different eras of orphan trains in different countries.
    Be careful to “show don’t tell.” This is telling:The four glanced at each other with worry written on their faces. Perhaps instead, one begins to bite her fingernail or a lip, another swallows hard.
    You have a good idea to build upon. Keep going!

    • Tom says:

      Thank you for your comments, they are much appreciated. I was looking for a way to re-introduce the four from the first book in the series (not published) and much as I tried to avoid info dumping, I’m not sure I succeeded. So I’ll go back and have another edit.
      Your comments are very welcome. Thank you

      Tom

  4. raelenepurtill says:

    Hi Tom. I like the sense of adventure here and would look forward to what is going to happen next to the four friends.
    I am guilty of this myself but the scene seems to happen in a void. Perhaps more description dropped in about where they are on the boat and some more action from the kids as they talk as well as descriptions of the characters while that is happening.
    Well done and thanks for sharing.
    Cheers Raelene

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